Mile Marker on U.S. Highway 95
Kootenai County, Idaho
Friday, March 18th, the sun rose in a clear blue sky and I said it was a good day for photography. Since I finished my words and pictures for the Montana coffee table book (all that remains is putting it all together in a single volume), I’ve been wondering what to do for an encore. I thoroughly enjoyed traveling Montana and getting to know my home state so much better, up close and personal, as it were, so I decided to continue the same, but with the neighboring state of Idaho, it being closest to home. I’ve been working on this new project for a few months now, but earlier this week I decided to get it put together in hard form, i.e. photographic prints and printed text, because frankly I don’t trust my computer. I do keep backing stuff up, but I don’t want to find myself in a position where all my hard work is just gone—lost in cyberspace somewhere. Having started that project, I figured it would be a good idea to keep some sort of record as to what was done and what wasn’t, and since I’m doing a county-by-county project, what better way to graphically illustrate what’s done and what remains to do than by taking a map of Idaho with all the counties shown and color coding it. Red would mean that I have written the text and taken the pictures for county x. Blue would mean that I have the pictures, but have yet to write the text, and gray would mean that I have the text finished, but have yet to visit the county in person and take the pictures. When I finished coloring the map, I noticed that northern Idaho, from the Canadian border to the southern end of the Panhandle (more or less, depending on where you figure the Panhandle meets the pan, as it were) was solid blue with two exceptions. Boundary County, the northern most county in the state, was red. I have taken the photos and written the text. Idaho County, which I consider the southern end was blue with a –CH notation. I have lots of photos I’ve taken all around Idaho County, but for some inexplicable reason, I don’t have a photo of the County Court House. And Lemhi County (not technically in the Panhandle) was colored blue with a -1P note: I have lots of photos of Lemhi County, but there’s one in particular I want and don’t have—at least among the photos I can find. South of Idaho County, the map has five counties colored gray, and the rest is a mass of white. Yes, I learned a lesson traveling to the far eastern regions of Montana before doing my homework. For Idaho, I decided I would write the essays and then take the photos, at least for those counties I can’t easily reach in a day trip. If I hadn’t already researched Ada County, for instance, I wouldn’t know that I want to visit in May because that’s when North America’s largest nesting group of raptors visits the wildlife sanctuary south of Boise. See what kinds of skills you can get from getting a graduate degree from the university!
Work done to date on my Idaho Counties Photobook
As of 3/17/16
Anyway, there is just one problem with all the above. There was one white county in the Panhandle: Nez Perce County with its County Seat of Lewiston. Technically speaking, anywhere in that region could be considered a day trip from here at home in Wild Horse Plains, Montana, so I loaded all my camera gear into the new Explorer and headed out. This was the first time I had driven more than a few miles—i.e. to town and back—since my accident where I totaled the Saab, and I was both eager and a bit nervous to see if I could handle what used to be normal for me. By the time I had the car loaded and stopped in town to fill the gas tank, it was much later in the day than I would have liked, but Idaho is in a different time zone—at least the Panhandle is—so I could always claim I was gaining an hour. (We’ll leave crossing that same time change on the way back for later, ok?)
From home, I drove east on MT 200 to MT 135, which the Nav system in the Explorer informed me, is called Quinn’s Canyon Road. I’ve lived here over three years, and have lived in western Montana for over 40 and have never heard of Quinn’s Canyon Road before, but what the hey. Southwest on 135 to St Regis, then onto I-90 to head west into Idaho and Pacific Standard Time. I crossed Lookout Pass and the state line at 11:07 and by 10:10 my clock had registered the fact that I was no longer in the Mountain Time Zone. I stopped in Coeur d’Alene long enough to pick up a new charger for my phone, then headed south on US 95. US 95 is the longest highway in the state of Idaho. It crosses into the state’s southwestern most county, Owyhee, and heads north, clinging to the state line for the most part, until it leaves Idaho and the U.S. at the Eastport border crossing, over 538 miles to the north. Where I joined the road, there was still another 100+ miles of 95 north of me, but I was heading south and the mile markers were decreasing in size. 425, 424, 423, 422, 421, 419.9, 419. Wait a minute? What was that? I had read that Idaho had a terrible time with theft of one particular highway sign, and this was the way they dealt with the problem. I had to make a U-turn and go back to photograph that mile marker.
My new travel companion
2012 Ford Explorer Limited
Parked at home
Now I live in Montana, as my readers all know, and Montana has, since 2004, allowed personal use of marijuana for medical reasons. We won’t go into all the shenanigans our state legislature has played with what has been a very popular law, but suffice it say that under certain circumstances you can get the state’s permission to grow and use cannabis for your health. Washington State and now Oregon have both legalized all use of marijuana. Sandwiched in between is Idaho which has steadfastly refused to give up the federal war on drugs, no matter how ineffective that may be. So while you can legally purchase pot in a store in Spokane, 20 miles west of the Idaho state line, or grow your own in Montana, in Idaho you face prison time for having a joint in your possession. Even so, I thought it a bit much to remove the 420 sign from the highway, and US 95 is the only highway in Idaho long enough to have a 420 sign. (For my extremely sheltered readers, 420 is a slang term for marijuana, and if you google 420, you’ll find out all sorts of things you never needed to know—including the fact that Idaho is not alone in changing mile markers with this designation.)
I’ve reached the end of my allotted space for today’s blog, so next time I’ll talk about the rest of the trip—including how I changed my map of Nez Perce County from white to red.